When Jason and I were first married, we went a few months without a budget. I knew what budgeting was and why it mattered, but we were completely remodeling our first home and I honestly just didn’t want to know what the total was going to be. I cared more about the job being done than about a low savings account balance. We had two incomes, no kids, and always paid the credit card bill in full – so we allowed ourselves to be a little disorganized. Then I started graduate school, and money was tighter. We took a Dave Ramsey class at church and started to do an amended version of the envelope system to keep better track. We don’t use cash (because we are the wallet-losing type sometimes), but rather put receipts in envelopes by category, using a running total system to keep on track for monthly budgets.
The second time we remodeled a home we went in with a budget and a five-year plan to finish everything. Then we decided to move again during month nine and I had to squeeze in as much of that plan as possible in order to have the house ready to sell – needless to say, we were way over budget! Every time we’ve moved (4 times in 3 years, including temporary housing between houses both times) it got more difficult to avoid slipping toward some overspending habits. Anyone who’s every moved knows about all the hidden costs. During the unpacking after this move, we discovered that the piggy bank actually shattered into pieces, a casualty of the box-tossing. The metaphor of the move breaking the bank was not lost on us!
So now that we’re exiting survival mode, I want to restart our envelope system a little. We’ve kept up with it throughout the move, but we got into a bad habit of letting the paper receipts pile up, then discovering we were over budget when it was too late to do much about it. To compensate, we would have to move money from the more flexible line items – but that means missing out on fun extra events, which is a bummer. The fact is that usually when we’re spending money, we are on the go. Also, most paper receipts don’t need to be saved or even printed if we can make a note of the expenditure right then and there.
So here’s our new system: use the “Goodbudget” app, which uses “envelopes” with designated amounts, but is completely paperless. Only keep receipts of items that will be tax-deductible or may need to be returned. Enter things right away, allowing us to react and change habits before we are over budget. The app is working great so far – some line items are monthly and others yearly for us, and it allows for that.
We’ve all heard that a failure to plan is a plan for failure. I think this is true in a lot of areas, but especially with money. The worry and stress over money will control you if you don’t control your money with a plan. Make sure you and your spouse agree on where the money goes, and keep each other accountable with spending. Couples can end up in dark places if they lose control of their financial habits. Ultimately, small decisions and good habits over time will allow families to be able to do the “big” things later.
You may be wondering what happened to Habit 7 Blog. Well, I found out in late April that we are expecting a baby in December, and May was pretty full of just trying to survive the end of the school year while also getting through the exhaustion and icky-feeling phase of pregnancy. If I had to give it a title, it would be “Habit 7: Stop trying to accomplish so much and just get some rest whenever possible. You are growing a human, after all.” Jason was incredible about picking up the slack while I was utterly useless at anything but being the oven. He is a great dad!
I’m playing catch-up, for sure: Habit 8 should have come out 5/28, and Habit 9 is due in two days. Summer is about playing catch-up, though. We’ve actually been doing the Goodbudget app for a while now and it’s going well – I just hadn’t gotten around to the writing portion. Sorry to leave you in suspense!
Updates on Habits 1-6: This could get long if I address them individually. All are going pretty well – we need to reboot the use of Myfitnesspal (my eating habits in the first trimester are more for survival and whatever sounds good at the time, not really something I want to think about or keep track of). I am being pretty good about vitamins and water with the renewed motivation of pregnancy. Time-saving habits are not as needed in summer, but it’s a great time to catch up and make small changes so that the school year goes more smoothly. It’s also a lot easier to do smart things like reading and prayer time in the summer. More on that to come soon!